Go back 4 years and we were first time parents to our daughter Phoebe. She was a dream, such a chilled out baby, breastfed perfectly from birth and generally never had any problems with her. Well, that was until the sun went down, and suddenly I would think someone had swapped my baby!!
With Pheobe I thought I was more than prepared for the onslaught of cluster feeding. I remember in the beginning thinking ‘why do people complain about this, I’m loving it!!’, although that soon wore off.
What I wasn’t prepared for, was the fact that she wanted to cluster feed from 7pm to 7am. And so where did that leave my perfect image of feeding my baby, rocking to sleep, placing in the moses basket and watching her peacefully drift off whilst I enjoyed a quiet cuppa with my husband?
So our evenings would go a little like this
7pm, bath… Wonderful, a routine. It’s key apparently. All the women in the family told me time and time again, you need routine, baby will know. A bath, a feed, a story and put down in their own bed (because of course I wouldn’t want to ‘make a rod for my own back’ now would I)
So bath time would be wonderful, so much fun, it’s always been one of my favourite times of the day. Then into some snuggly PJs followed by a feed. Of course at this point the last thing Phoebe would want to do is then leave the boobie to listen to a story; but surely I had to follow the routine?
It would normally take at least 5 or 6 attempts of feeding, her falling asleep, transitioning into the cot then her waking up again before she was actually asleep, alone, in her crib.
But of course this never lasted. I spent my evenings and all through the night repeatedly getting up to feed. Forcing myself to stay awake, in pure panic of the what ifs when I considered falling asleep. Not only was this huge lack of sleep bad for my mental health, but it wasn’t exactly healthy for my bank balance either. I can’t be the only one guilty of 3am night feed amazon orders!
I remember countless nights sitting up in bed crying in desperation. Thinking maybe if I cried a bit louder I could outcry her and she would stop and think ‘wow mums really loosing it maybe I’ll just sleep’. Sometimes I’d sit there getting so frustrated and over tired I really would loose it launching myself out of the room demanding that Scott took control.
Whenever I would let slip to a family member that we bed shared when we couldn’t take it anymore, we would find ourselves at the forefront of unwanted advice and scaremongering.
For 8 months this was our lives from 7pm to 7am, and I’m sure it’s a very familiar story.
Safe bed sharing
That’s when I just gave up. I gave up on the idealised ‘perfect’ routine. I gave up fighting her to sleep alone when all she wanted was her mummas touch and comfort. I gave up on trying to follow other people’s advice.
I did some googling and found myself on the Lullaby Trust website. This information, paired with a bunch of positive bed sharing stories from a parenting Facebook group I decided it would be the best fit for us.
Oh man… How I wish I did it sooner! We all slept amazing for it. I was calmer and so Phoebe was too. Scott was happier because he was getting more sleep and for the first time in 8 months we felt rested.
We continued to bed share until Phoebe was around 22 months. At this point she was feeding less in the night and in all honesty… became a pain in the bum. (star fishing toddler sound familiar!?)
By this point her understanding was pretty good. So explaining and gently transitioning her into her own bed was relatively easy (remember that rod I was supposedly making?)
Phoebe is now 4. She’s a wonderful sleeper (99% of the time) and can not only put herself to sleep alone, but also sleeps in her own bed all night! Something we never thought would happen. Bed sharing has certainly not had a negative impact on her ability to sleep.
Baby number 2
When Phoebe was almost 3 her baby brother Oscar came along. Based on previous experience, I had the opinion of ‘We can battle him to sleep in the next to me crib all we want but ultimately we will end up putting him in the bed; so why not just do it from the start?’ So that’s exactly what we did, even in the hospital (supported by some midwives more than others).
It has been a beautiful experience. I often find myself waking in the night to just stare at him, peacefully snoozing, happy and content, knowing he’s right where he wants to be. Oscar is now 17 months old, he’s still breastfed on demand and some nights will wake for a feed once, some nights 5 times. But thanks to our decision to bed share I simply latch him on and we both drift back off. We all are getting so much more sleep this way and I’ve got to say I’m loving it!
Our babies won’t be little forever. They all learn to or want to sleep alone at some point, some sooner than others. But for now I’m happy ‘making a rod for my own back’ in my little bubble of oxytocin.
In 2019 the Lullaby Trust carried out a survey of over 8,500 parents which showed that 76% have co-slept with their baby at some point. At this time, many parents felt unable to talk about co-sleeping with professionals as it was advised against.
Now parents are advised to take a look at the ‘Safer Sleep for Babies‘ leaflet which contains guidance on how to safely co-sleep/bed share & the risks of accidental co-sleeping/bed sharing. The guidance was produced by the Lullaby Trust, UNICEF, Basis & Public Health England.
Parent/carer of a baby who is under 12 months? Come along to our Babbling Babies Walk & Talk – you can find out more info here